Cars. Airline tickets. Insurance. It doesn’t matter what you sell, you will always face competition. And regardless of how sharp your competitive edge is, your market share is never 100%. But… it can be close. And that’s why you need competitive intelligence (CI).
Also known as competition intelligence or competitor intelligence, CI refers to data-driven insights that help you to know what makes your competitors tick, if they’re winning the business you’re aiming for, and, most importantly, how they’re winning that same business you want to earn.
A good CI strategy can help businesses not only thrive but also survive. The business world is littered with high-profile brands that no longer exist because they somehow fell short in their competitor analysis (or they failed to track what their competitors were doing.)
These brands failed to innovate and adapt, especially when disruptor companies emerged. The list includes Blockbuster, Toys R Us, Polaroid, Tower Records, Compaq computers, and Pets.com. (You remember the sock puppet for that last one, right? Or are we dating ourselves … ?)
Competitive intelligence is about much more than knowing what the competition is doing, though. It is also a type of marketing intelligence, or all the data that is related to a company’s marketing efforts and other relevant information to consider when developing effective marketing strategies.
The competitive intelligence analysis you conduct can be tactical (short-term) or strategic (longer-term). In either case, the insights you get from the process can help you better understand where your business is positioned within the competitive arena, and the risks, challenges, and opportunities it faces.
Competition intelligence builds on typical market intelligence research and modern-day business analytics by adding rich, customer-focused data to your strategic plan.
Here’s an example: Say that you have competition intelligence indicating a rival has a new ad campaign using messaging different from yours. What if you find that the messaging appears to be resonating well with your target audience? That insight clearly should inform your customer outreach.
Competitive intelligence analysis is important because it helps your entire organization — from your sales team to your marketing and product development departments — multiply their understanding of the market. Ultimately, this enables everyone to make better, more informed decisions for the business.
Like every good business strategy, competitive intelligence should have a process. We feel the following six steps are fundamental to succeeding at competitive intelligence analysis:
Clearly defining overall business objectives focuses your CI efforts from the outset. This ensures that valuable time and resources are spent gathering only relevant business intelligence.
Identify and rank your competitors based on relevancy to your products, the geographies that you operate in, your target audience, and your business.
Determine which types of competitor intelligence will give your business the biggest bang for the buck. Here are some to consider:
Once you’ve decided on the type of competitive intelligence that best suits your business goals, it’s time to nail down the best sources of data to feed that intelligence. These sources can include:
Once you have data in hand that details your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses, you can begin a competitive analysis and create actionable data for your business. Your analysis might include:
Competitive intelligence analysis is a legitimate business practice and should not be confused with illegal practices such as industrial espionage or corporate spying. Nevertheless, your process must comply with all ethical and legal standards including:
There are several ways to use competitive intelligence. Here’s a quick overview of some common use cases you might consider, depending on your business and its objectives:
One “big picture” use case for CI is market research. This includes analyzing the size and growth potential of the market, identifying customer needs and preferences, and evaluating the competitive landscape.
Competitor intelligence can reveal gaps in the market helping you to develop new products, and better understand competitors’ product features and pricing.
CI can deliver a greater understanding of your competitors’ marketing tactics. Competitive intelligence analysis can also help you to identify potential opportunities for differentiation which can, in turn, enhance your overall marketing strategy.
You can also use competition intelligence to inform your sales team and sales reps by identifying key decision-makers, providing a better understanding of the sales process, and identifying potential objections or challenges to your product.
Another potential “big picture” use case is strategic planning. Competitor intelligence used in strategic planning can help you identify potential threats and opportunities, assess the strengths and weaknesses of your rivals, and surface areas for business growth or expansion you may not have previously considered.
Investing in competition intelligence does more than help you understand the state of the playing field for your business. These data-driven insights can benefit your organization in other ways, such as:
As technological innovation drives transformation throughout enterprises, look for competitor intelligence to change, too. Here are some future trends in competitive intelligence to watch:
Artificial intelligence is already helping businesses gather and analyze competitive intelligence more efficiently and effectively, and this trend will only continue. Automation, machine learning, and natural language processing make it possible for businesses to digitize previously marginalized analog channels, such as phone calls.
Invoca’s AI-powered software, for example, tracks, records, and analyzes thousands of phone calls in real time, providing mountains of new data from the direct voice of the customer. Organizations can mine this data for further intelligence into markets and competitors as well as customers.
More and more competitive information is shared online today via websites and social media. Businesses can use social media and web scraping tools to collect and analyze data for competitive intelligence from this vast and ever-growing ocean of insights.
With technological advancement comes greater access to deeper analysis of reliable, historical, and real-time data from a wide variety of sources, including unstructured data like audio and customer feedback. Businesses can use AI and machine learning tools for data analysis to make predictions about future trends and developments in the competitive landscape more confidently and accurately.
Competitive intelligence is most valuable to your organization when you can access and analyze reliable, relevant data at scale and use it to make data-driven decisions quickly and confidently.
Invoca’s conversation intelligence platform, which is powered by AI, can collect and analyze data from every phone call made to and from a business. This huge database of primary source information can be leveraged throughout the enterprise, but especially as part of competitive intelligence analysis.
Phone calls provide direct, incontrovertible access to the voice of the customer. Businesses can confidently use that knowledge to create unique, actionable insights to benefit sales and marketing teams and help drive business growth.
Want to learn more about how Invoca can help you gather valuable competitive intelligence? Check out these resources: